From the image of the black woman as Jezebel, to the black male as savage, mainstream white representations of blacks have coded black sexuality as deviant, excessive and a threat to the white social order.
The 26th of October in 1934 started off with Claude Neal, a young African-American farmhand in Brewton jail in Alabama, United States of America. That morning, at least a hundred people arrived and forcibly took Neal from lawful custody. Claude Neal stood accused of the rape and murder of Lola Cannidy, a white farmer’s daughter in the area the young black man worked. The mob felt a trial was justice delayed and decided to take matters into its own hands. Neal was to be lynched!
News of the lynching spread like a wildfire and one newspaper headline screamed, “All White Folks Invited to Party”. The “party” was slated for around 8pm and between 3,000 and 7,000 people attended. A Committee of Six was in charge of the lynching and it took Neal into the woods near Peri Landing. Paul A Gilje in Rioting in America wrote, “First they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them.”
One of the six later confirmed, “…we cut off his balls and made him eat them and say they was good. Then we cut off his pecker and made him eat it and say it was good.” They shot him, stabbed him, dragged him and hung him for all to see near a courthouse. There hung the dead, penis-less black man: the only type of black man white supremacists could tolerate. The lesson to draw from Neal as Wesley Morris, in a column for The New York Times, observed was, “Be careful near white people,” and further, “Be careful because your sexuality, to them, is hazardous.”
The black man has for long been cast as the brute with animalistic sexual urges that cannot be inhibited. Part of this narrative has been backed by the myth of the Mandingo penis. Sadly, some black men think the concept of “big black penises” is a compliment yet it is the polar opposite of the truth on the ground. William Lee Howard arguing against the education of black men in The Negro as a Distinct Ethnic Factor in Civilization wrote, “When education will reduce the large size of the negro’s penis as well as bring about the sensitiveness of the terminal fibers which exist in the Caucasian, then will it also be able to prevent the African’s birthright to sexual madness and excess-from the Caucasian’s view-point.”
In his reasoning, African penile size was a defect to be fixed and as long as it could not be remedied, the African would remain nothing but a sexual deviant and savage. How then can a “big black penis” be a compliment? Howard then nailed the coffin by saying, “…individuals should understand that the sexual instinct of the African approaches the animal. It appears to intensify at certain periods; it is then we have the raping of white girls.”
Howard’s tragic understanding of what he thought was biology is similar to the unintelligent claim Dylann Roof made before killing black churchgoers in Charleston: “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”
Psychopathic mass shooter and educated medical doctor, both justified their racism using black sexuality.
Michel Cournot in Martinique also said, “The black man’s sword is a sword. When he has thrust it into your wife, she has really felt something. It is a revelation. In the chasm that it has left, your little toy is lost.” This was a fancy way of saying “Once you go black, you never go back” which is the white supremacist’s nightmare. Since the black genital became this mystical “sword” that could incite a Caucasian female rebellion and slay the white man from social dominance, it had to be demonized and destroyed.
The prevailing narrative of black sexuality is therefore one of violence and brute force so as to inspire emotional and decidedly negative reactions to African masculinity. While white men have the privilege of being touted as sex symbols, black men are painted sexual deviants. In fact, Gail Dines says, “From the image of the black woman as Jezebel, to the black male as savage, mainstream white representations of blacks have coded black sexuality as deviant, excessive and a threat to the white social order.”
The black man’s private parts are imagined as big…too big and his brain small for every intellectual function but big for sex. This reduces the black man to nothing but his penis and therefore if the penis is cut off, he is nothing. (Claude Neal comes to mind.) The Atlanta Journal Record of Medicine even had an essay titled “Castration Instead of Lynching” because the only good black man is one without a penis. Black Skin, White Masks then gives the unavoidable conclusion that, “…one is no longer aware of the Negro but only of a penis; the Negro is eclipsed. He is turned into a penis. He is a penis.”
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